The US military will no longer deploy the Air Force in the air for the Saudi-led coalition's fighter planes confirmed in Yemen, Saudi state media and the Pentagon on Friday.
The change came after growing pressure from Congress to end US support for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Yemen government in their fight against rebel Houthis, which has been going on for nearly four years At least 16,200 civilians are killed and 14 is bringing millions of people to the brink of famine.
While the US is still connected to the Saudis and Emiratis and provides other forms of assistance, the end of air-to-air refueling will lift a controversial and noticeable level of support for the coalition, especially in the face of international criticism of the civilian population.
It also comes when the US has been working together to end hostilities in Yemen and diplomatic efforts by United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to bring the belligerents to talks by the end of the month.
The decision was made because the coalition has "increased its ability to independently carry on-board refueling," said the state-run Saudi Press Agency, which said the US was first consulted.
Defense Minister James Mattis welcomed the decision in a Friday statement, adding that the US would work with the coalition to "build legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their borders, and contribute to the fight against al-Yemeni forces." Qaida and ISIS in Yemen and the region. "
The US has been fighting terrorism against both terrorist groups, one of the reasons they supported the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates for a long time. The other major factor is that the Houthis are aligned with Iran, which the Trump government has targeted as a source of unrest in the region.
"It is the Iranian leadership that continues to drive the Houthis in a way that has provoked this civil war that has caused so much death and destruction in Yemen," Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo told BBC Persian on Wednesday.
The administration will continue to provide information and education to the Saudis and Emiratis in addition to several arms deals with both countries.
However, the decision to end refueling in the air was generally welcomed by Congress, which has long called for this step.
Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire issued a statement on Friday calling on the government to do just that, and threatened further congressional action if the government had not done so themselves.
For some members the decision was late and inadequate. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Called on Congress to pass a bill he passed to codify an end to US involvement in the conflict, which he considers unlawful because he never approves of Congress has been.
"With the definitive end of Saudi Arabian bomber tanker missions, the Trump administration acknowledges that our joint operation in Yemen was a disaster … Now it's no secret that the war in Yemen is a national security and humanitarian nightmare "All the way out," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a similar statement.
The question is whether US support for ending the conflict will be accompanied by diplomatic pressure on the Saudis and Emiratis.
There was growing doubts this week that fighting across Yemen was intensified just days after the joint statement by Mattis and Pompeo to support a new ceasefire and negotiations. As the US supports the coalition, they seemed to ignore US calls for peace and launched an offensive to recapture Hodeida's important port, which reaches approximately 80 percent of Yemen's food and humanitarian supplies.
This week, armed forces attacked by the Yemeni government, with the support of the Saudi Arabian Air Force, entered the city as the Houthi rebels conquered a hospital as a military outpost to fire coalition forces, a sign of both sides' behavior This brutal war led what, according to the UN means war crimes, and brought civilians in the crosshairs.
Despite the violence, the US government still urges to bring all sides to a negotiating table by the end of November. That goal post seemed to disappear from view, and the deputy spokesman for the US Secretary General said Griffiths hoped to do so by the end of the year.
ABC News told a source that everything is well underway for a meeting in late November, and Griffiths and his team are making progress along the way.
Griffiths & # 39; team denied any delays and told ABC News in a statement, "There has been no" shift. "Our work to resume the political process is proceeding as planned … We commit to convening the talks as soon as possible [logistical] Arrangements are complete. "
One US official refused to comment on any timeline, but told ABC News, "Our main objective remains a solution to the conflict, and we are focusing our efforts on supporting the efforts of the UN envoy, and we reaffirm our call after a cessation of hostilities and for all parties to come to the table to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. "
One possible catch, warned the relief groups, were reports that the US considered calling the Houthi rebels a terrorist organization. The Washington Post reported Friday that the idea was being reviewed by the Trump administration.
Although the idea has been discussed several times in the US government since the Obama administration, ABC News told another source that this is currently not expected. It is unclear how far in this lengthy process, if any, the idea is present.
Experts warn that this would alienate the Houthis and sabotage the peace process – which the government does not want. This could also complicate or jeopardize the work of aid groups who need to negotiate and work with the Houthis to manage services in a controlled area.